FULLERTON, Calif. – Thomas Eshelman was the first Titan freshman since 1987 to start a season opener for Cal State Fullerton, and he didn't disappoint the sellout crowd of 3,508 as CSF edged USC, 3-2, on Friday night at Goodwin Field.
In the win, Eshelman (1-0) allowed two unearned runs on four hits while striking out six in six innings of work.
A two-out Fullerton error in the top of the sixth put the Titans behind 2-1 as USC's James Roberts made CSF pay for the mistake in the next at-bat with a two-run homer to left field.
But Cal State Fullerton punched back in the bottom of the frame to retake the lead. The Titans loaded the bases with no outs before Chad Wallach delivered a RBI single to left field evening the game as Matt Chapman scored. J.D. Davis attempted to score from second on the play but was thrown out, leaving Michael Lorenzen at third. Matt Orloff then placed a bunt in front of the plate that gave Lorenzen just enough time to make it 90 feet and slide under the tag as Fullerton took a 3-2 advantage.
Sophomore right-hander Willie Kuhl tossed two shutout innings and struck out two, before Lorenzen took the mound in the ninth to retire the side in order and register his first save of the year. Eshelman retired the first 14 batters he faced until surrendering a single in the fifth.
With its largest crowd in the stands since 2007, Cal State Fullerton took a 1-0 lead in the first as Chapman's sacrifice fly drove in Richy Pedroza after the senior had led off the bottom of the inning with a single.
The Titans totaled six hits, and Carlos Lopez's double was the only extra-base knock for Fullerton.
Left-hander Rob Wheatley took the loss for USC, allowing three runs on six hits in five and 1/3 innings.
The Titans' 2013 season continues on Saturday with a doubleheader against Nebraska. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Ted Silva (pitching coach Nebraska) will be returning to Goodwin Field on Saturday. Silva was an assistant coach with the Titans (2005-2006), helping CSF to the 2006 College World Series when Fullerton produced an NCAA-best 2.73 ERA. Silva also played three seasons for the Titans from 1993-95, helping Fullerton to its third national championship during his junior year. An All-American, Silva led the nation in victories in 1995, posting an 18-1 overall record with a 2.83 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 152 2/3 innings
Notes: Right-hander Thomas Eshelman was the first freshman to start a season opener for the Titans since Feb., 1987 when Mark Beck took the mound at Saint Mary's. Beck took a tough loss, allowing one unearned run in eight innings while striking out eight as the Gaels edged the Titans, 1-0…Cal State Fullerton is 21-18 all-time in season openers, but 18-6 in openers occurring at home. The last time Cal State Fullerton opened its season against USC was a 13-6 win on Feb. 5, 1979, beginning what would prove to be the first season the Titans' captured one of their four NCAA Division I Baseball national championships…Cal State Fullerton last won a season opener was in 2009 over TCU (7-6)…The Titans crowd of 3,508 was its largest at Goodwin Field since April 22, 2007 vs. Pacific.